There’s nothing scarier for a dog owner than hearing from a vet that his pet has a deadly parasite. Heartworm Disease can be fatal if not treated immediately. However, no matter how much medication you treat your dog’s heartworms with, there’s nothing better than prevention. Not only does it stop the parasites before they start damaging your dog’s internal organs, it also saves you a lot of money.
Protecting your dog from heartworms isn’t that difficult or costly, but understanding where heartworms come from, how they get into your dog’s system, and what makes them thrive in your dog’s body is essential.
What is Heartworm and Where Does It Come From?
Heartworms, despite their tiny size, are capable of damaging almost any organ in a dog’s body. It starts when mature female heartworms give birth to microfilariae that travel through the infected dog’s bloodstream. They start to spread when a mosquito bites the infected dog and passes them on to another dog, leaving the infected larvae to settle under the skin and tissue, through the bite wound, and into the bloodstream.
The heartworm looks like long strings of noodles when fully grown and could stay inside a dog’s body from 5 to 7 years. Depending on how long they’ve been inside, they could grow to about 12 inches long. This is why organ damage is as simple as having one heartworm lodged in the dog’s heart, lungs, or blood vessels.
Symptoms aren’t usually detected the moment the dog becomes infected. It would take at least 5 months for you to test for heartworms. After 6 to 7 months when the larvae begin to mature, they also start to mate and reproduce. Heartworms are not viral and can only be spread through a mosquito bite. There is no other way for it to spread, but one bite is enough for your dog to be infected.
How Do I Keep My Home Safe From Heartworms?
Since heartworms are only passed through mosquito bites, it’s safe to assume that where there are mosquitoes and animals, there is a chance of heartworms. So to make sure no heartworms are spread, even if there may be infected mammals in your neighborhood, protect your home from mosquitoes. You can do this by keeping them out with a fly screen. Make sure to clean up your place too. Mosquitoes love water and lay their eggs in it. So if you have stagnant water sitting on your yard somewhere, either pour them out or cover them securely with a lid. Overturn things or containers that may collect water as well. If you have a garden, make sure to trim them regularly so mosquitoes have fewer places to rest.
If you already have mosquitoes around, you can try killing them with insecticides or insect repellents. You can also try setting out citronella candles or citronella plants for a non-toxic method of keeping mosquitoes away. However, their efficacy is somewhat debatable.
What Medications Does My Dog Have To Take To Prevent Heartworms?
Fortunately, heartworms are highly preventable, and they aren’t that hard to do at all. Aside from keeping your home clean and free from mosquitoes, there are medications to prevent heartworms in dogs. They come in liquid and solid capsule forms, but flavored chewable tablets are the most popular. They cost a lot less than treating the actual disease, which can go up to $1,000.
Since heartworms don’t fully develop until they’re about 6 or 7 months old, these medications to prevent heartworms in dogs kill the larvae that are just about to settle into the system. They don’t actually prevent the mosquito bite and the infection, but what it does is prevent the larvae from maturing and completing their lifecycle.
What If Your Dog Already Has Heartworms?
If you’re worried your dog already has heartworms, there are blood tests to check. An antigen test looks for antigens only adult female heartworms could release. Another blood test could be taken to see if microfilariae are present in the bloodstream. Because only adult male and female heartworms could produce microfilariae, their presence would confirm an infection.
These tests, however, no matter how accurate, could only confirm the presence of the parasites 5 to 6 months after the infection. This means, by the time your dog tests positive for Heartworm Disease, the worms are already fully developed and ready to reproduce. For this reason, it’s best to kill off the larvae even before it starts to grow and leech off your dog’s organs.
Prevention is always better than cure. Aside from saving you from the emotional burden of seeing your dog suffer from these nasty heartworms, it also saves you from the expensive treatments for the disease. Aside from keeping your home and your area clean from mosquitoes, medications to prevent heartworms in dogs are the best ways to keep your pup healthy.
Source: ROI High